Product-market fit: 5 tips to get there faster

Product-market fit is that elusive term that refers to a point in a start-up life when there’s a product that is at the least sell-able, and ideally a “must have” for its market. You must reach product-market fit before you can scale. It’s at that point, when you know if your product has a future.

But usually reaching product-market fit is more complicated. Start-ups would go through hoops to get there. Sometimes they would have to pivot to a new direction (see our previous post about how to pivot), rethinking their product or their market. And many times they would fail in trying to reach product-market fit, burning too much time and money in the wrong direction.

Mark Anderseen wrote a few years ago about how a start-up life has two parts: before product-market fit, and after. Anderseen believes that as a founder, you need to do anything in your power to get to product-market fit, “…including changing out people, rewriting your product, moving into a different market, telling customers no when you don’t want to, telling customers yes when you don’t want to, raising that fourth round of highly dilutive venture capital — whatever is required.”

So how do you get there? Here are 5 tips to help you get faster to product-market fit:

1. Always ask yourself: Are you solving a real problem?
If your product is a nice to have, that won’t cut it. When you present your product to your first customers, they need to show you they need it and want it now – because it solves a real problem.

2. Stay close to your first customers
Your first customers are your first true indication if you are close to product-market fit. It’s the best validation you can get. Track the way your product is being used (or why it’s not). Talk to your customers. Ask them as many questions as you can. Get to know the inns and outs of how they interact with your product.

3. Don’t confuse early traction with product-market fit
Make sure you don’t develop a product for one customer. Start-ups can get caught up with attending to their first customer at the expense of solidifying a more generic product.

4. Tie your solution to a solid business model
Your product is important, but there is no product without a business model that goes with it. The same way you are testing your product validity, test your business model to help you reach product-market fit.

5. Don’t be afraid to scratch Plan A
Plan A is not sacred. It’s the plan that comes before Plan B. Don’t be afraid to scratch it if it’s not working, and do so early enough, when there’s still money left for Plan B.

Do you have any tips to help reach product-market fit? if you do, we’d be happy to hear them.